Posted in CPE

Homework Assignment: Try Sharing

So with CPE we have individual supervision. Yesterday my supervisor gave me an assignment- that today, when we had group, I needed to share some of my feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness and fear. Yup, he wanted to me really share some of the things that I am going through. He wanted me to share not only my relationship with God/spirituality/religion, but also my feelings right now. And in addition, I need to write to him in the morning to tell him how it went.

I’m apprehensive of sharing, just for sharings sake. I found that in all places I was pushed to share my feelings it was mostly for voyeuristic vulnerability. I was placed in situations to share and cry, but then there was no one that was there to pick me up. There was no real purpose to the sharing other than just sharings sake. There were even times I was told explicitly that even though I feel a certain way, they don’t care. Or asked “so are you doing ok now” after crying hysterically, as if lunch time was going to change how I felt. And following that there was no follow up.

In addition, sharing is hard for me because I feel like the things that I am going through are just spoken about SO often. Who really wants to talk about the loneliness and frustrations of being single. Who wants to talk about what it means to be an orthodox female rabbi and the difficulties that go along with that. In the past year, the group I was speaking with were also orthodox female rabbis, so it was everyone’s pain. My story was someone else’s story, and we were just running in it. It really was a place of trying to encourage one another, because we really do need one another to create change.

I also don’t like to feel vulnerable or even worse broken. I don’t want to hear words that are either pity or trying to convince me that I am good or that “it will all be ok”. I do know that it is ok to be sad/angry/etc, but I also need those around me to allow me to feel that way. To see where I am coming from. To allow me to feel that, so I don’t need to switch to the strong one right away- although I do know how to do it.

Well, today was the day. To be honest I was quite nervous about what I would say and how I would say it. I didn’t know what conversations would be happening and really didn’t think I would have the guts to bring this up if it was a different topic altogether.

It turned out I shared a lot…twice. I both started and ended my day in tears (I also brought others to tears, just from crying).

The day started by a passage that one of the other residents brought to start our day. It was about following in the way of God and if one does, then one will feel whole. Many in the group were talking about how much it meant to them, and how it spoke to them. While she was reading I was already tearing up, something I really didn’t want to do. There was a part of the passage that spoke about not looking for acceptance in humans, but rather in God. And through following God you will find happiness. It was then that broke me. I am struggling so much with the feeling of being torn- of doing what I think is right for me to be doing, but for it to be in a place that I will have to be alone, with marriage prospects being slim to none or doing something else so I can be in a larger place. I brought up my fears of being alone forever, and how hard it is to be alone, and the difficultly for me of thinking that this is what God wants for me- how it is not something I am willing to accept yet. I spoke about how hard it is to be single during the holidays and the struggle of feeling alone.

Well, that got another member to speak about her difficulties, and she said allowed that she was thankful that I said what I said, because she thought everyone else was feeling in line with the text. Another woman spoke about the difficulties of being in a relationship with an atheist, and how even in partnership there can be great loneliness and trials.

And then we had some class. And then we had our spirituality process group. It was the first one, so our supervisor started just with two questions – what is our concept of God, and what is the area we are struggling the most with God right now and how might that effect our work as chaplains.

I didn’t really have much intention of it being such a big thing. And I definitely didn’t expect it to be the main point of conversation.

I shared how in some ways I feel guilty that I am doing chaplaincy instead of doing a shul job. How I still feel bad that I gave up fighting in Israel. How being in the hospital I feel outside of my community – that I am not dealing with any of the politics, I am not preparing sermons or programs for shuls, I am not able to go to process group (and even if I could I wouldn’t have much to share), I’m having an experience that is not furthering the path of orthodox women. I shared that I haven’t learned anything since I was in Colombia, that something is keeping me from picking up any books, to the fact that I am 50 dapim off on daf yomi. I shared that I even lost my Bar Ilan disk on key, basically the first day of work…in essence lost my Torah. I shared that doing chaplaincy I’m not really working with people of my faith background, and that well, nothing I learned in the past five years is useful for this work. I shared that others have told me that I am “giving up” or doing a “disservice” to orthodox women, because I have a training that almost no one else has, and I should be doing something with it to better Orthodox Jewish women.

Well, I started sharing and then my supervisor had even more questions, and got me to share my feelings. Others in the group started to share bits and to see my pain and fight. It was not a fight they are part of nor did they realize that this was something I was carrying. Others shared their anger at my situation, told me that maybe it is a good thing for me to do things for me this coming year, and maybe see what happens after to where I feel I need to go, giving me blessings that I should find peace. One woman was silently crying next to me – sharing in my frustration and pain, and unable to talk about her own pain.

But then something different happened today. People came over to me to find out if I was ok. People came over to me to tell me that there was something in what I said that resonated with them, and reminding me that I deserve more for myself, even though I have done something different and historic.  One told me that she was worried that she would not be able to connect with me because I am more brain than feelings, and this allowed her to feel connected to me. I received text messages of stories of similar struggle in another religion or just a message even later in the evening to make sure that I am still doing ok. I even got an email from my supervisor thanking me for sharing.

I am used to being the strong one. The feminist fighter. The one who creates and gets others to create and follow. I am used to sharing and it feeling like it fell on deaf ears, and I’m left in my heaviness alone. But today it was different. Yes, I still wanted to crawl into a ball, and I was still exhausted at the end of it. Even though I did feel kinda weird that my story was what was expanded and we spent a lot of time one, it was not bad. My pain is part of who I am, and a lot of it is the language that I use in my life, and something that others in my group are not aware of. It did seem like others had points of connection 0 I am not the only one feeling lost, alone, destabilized. And I guess more so for me, I didn’t really feel like my sadness/pain was a burden. I didn’t feel like others were overflowing with things that they were not going to be able to be there for me.

So it wasn’t so bad in the end. Yea, my brain feels like mush right now. Yes, I get that sharing allows others to connect. Yes I get that seeing me in states of vulnerability lowers things down, so I am not the one running around doing thing – I too am holding some pain and struggle. You never know when your pain will be an opening for someone else to share or for someone else to know that they are not alone.

This is going to be an interesting year


Posted in Dating

The Pain of Singlehood

Last Shabbat I sat around a table with 6 women. Two were in relationships and the rest of us were single. All of us are accomplished women. All of us have jobs, are healthy, seem stable and are doing things in the world. And all of us felt the pain of being single and in our late 20’s and early 30’s.

The topic of the holidays came up and everyone spoke about the pain that it was to go home. Of the looks that they would get in shul because once again they are still single. Or all the other people their age in shul are married or have kids with them. Or the conversation with people would be filled with looks of pity, because even though they are accomplished women, they are still not really accomplished because they don’t have a ring on their finger.

There was the pain that goes on when they go home. One woman saying that she has to give her bedroom up to her younger married sister- because she is married. That her parents refuse to buy another big bed, and that the other rooms in the house are ok for all the guest, including grandparents, but when her sister comes to the house she must get her room. She has tried talking to her parents and even to her sister and they don’t listen. They think she is over reacting. They think that it is a crazy idea to buy other big beds or to rotate space in the house. They think that only her sister and her husband need privacy, because why would a 32 year old single woman need any privacy.

We spoke about the pain of once again being in shul and praying that we would be able to get married. That we should be able to find happiness in ourselves but at the same time we also want someone else there. That we are tired of being treated as little kids, just because we don’t have a ring on our finger – and how even though we know we are not little kids, but we hear it enough, so maybe it is true, and maybe we fall into those pattern.

This past Friday night I was at my friend’s house. I was away for chag and for the most part it was great. Yes, I did not choose to go home for the holiday. A bit because three days with my parents would be hard. But a really large part is that I feel very uncomfortable in their shul – it is clear that I am the older single. That people don’t know how to interact with me. That most of the members are younger than me and are running after their children.

So there I was sitting on my friend’s couch talking about life, and the topic of singlehood came up. I tried to explain the great pain that it causes me. The pain of feeling unwanted. The pain of feeling that I am able to accomplish so many great things and unexpected things in my professional life, but when it comes to my personal life I can’t even get a date. The pain of desire that can’t be filled. The pain of wanting just to be held, not even marriage, but even that I can’t find. The pain that comes with the vulnerability to tell everyone I know that I am single and looking, and for people just to tell me ok or that I am special.

My friend was no helpful to me. She told me that I was exaggerating and that “it will all happen at the right time.” I am told on the one hand that I need to make sure to be in the place where there are lots of singles (I have been- and haven’t dated). And that I need to do what my heart tells me to do, and it will be there that I will find someone (also hasn’t happened yet). She told me that she knows what it is like to be single and “older”- she got married at 26- I told her that she doesn’t know what it is like to be single at 32. She tried to tell me that it can still happen – but she just doesn’t know guys (also something I hear often, ‘I just don’t know any good guys’).

And then tonight I sat with my friend as she cried because being home was fighting to be seen and heard. Because there are only so many times you can be asked if you are dating anyone and for the answer to have to be no. Because there are only so many people you can see with partner and children before you start to feel like that only one that is single, and so there must be something wrong with you.

I wish there was a real way to explain how painful being single is. I also wish that I was strong enough for it not to be painful- that I can take to heart that I don’t need a man to “complete me” or that I can find full happiness in myself or that I am able to stand up to social pressures and do the best I can do in the world even though I don’t have a partner…

But the pain is there not only because of social pressure. I do know that I am capable of great things and  I am not letting it stop me. The pain is there because it hurts. Because it feels lonely. Because people treat you poorly. Because it is something that I desire but feels unattainable.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

I Am NOT Ready

Rosh Hashana starts in about 2.5 hours, and I’m sitting here and am completely not ready (Ok, so I showered, but that’s about it).

I’m supposed to speak and I HAVE NO CLUE what I will be saying. None. I haven’t prepared anything. I haven’t had the time (or taken the time or had energy for the time) to prepare both myself for this day and for looking into something to say. My first year out of yeshiva and as a Rabbi, I feel like I know nothing for the holiday.

This year has been so topsy turvy for me just on a personal note (not to mention the world at large). It started in Australia and ended in Colombia. I was in New York. I received smicha. I moved apartments. I started a job. I applied for a job. And now just as I am starting to settle into things, the job I applied to, that I thought didn’t want me, might want me- and that scares me, a lot…

I started a job in the hospital. I know that I know what to do. I know that I am capable to doing it, otherwise they would not have hired me. But there are times that I feel over my head and just not ready. I am knowingly putting myself in a position to open up and be vulnerable (yes, I know that is probably a great thing for me – but still is scary and makes my heart beat fast). There are things that I know I will see more of, and to be honest I’m not really sure if I know the right things to do, how to be comforting, how to be present, how to help families grieve. Just the other day I was in a room with a family as their loved on was gasping for air, even though she had an oxygen mask on. I stood there with the family. Praying, holding them, just being present for 45 minutes. As they watched their wife/sister/daughter gasp for her last breaths. I left the room because I didn’t think I had anything more to say. I look back and in some ways I think it was the right thing, and in other ways, I think of all the things I could have offered. Ways I could have been more forward. Prayers that could have been said more loudly.

Starting next week I will be on call on my own. ME- the ONLY chaplain in the entire hospital for a few hours. And only a week later THE ONLY CHAPLAIN in the ENTIRE HOSPITAL ALL NIGHT!!! Am I really able to do the right thing? Am I the right person? Am I old enough for this… (I guess that is a different reflection)

And then I think about the world. I think about the hurricanes that passed through and the one that is currently passing through. I think of the earthquake in Mexico. I think about all of those who have lost many friends, family and community members. I think of all of those whose house and worldly belongings have been destroyed. I think of those who are sitting in shelters or have no electricity while the storm is happening. It is here that I CRY OUT to God, and ask WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

And then I think about those who are fleeing their country because of fear of being killed. And I think about all of those who were masqueraded this year. All of those who died by the hand of another person…I think about the governments threatening to create a war that will murder millions upon millions of people- just because. I think about the government wanting to take away health care, in ways that seem like they want to do it, just because they are able. I think about all of those people who are afraid that they will be killed or hurt because of their skin color, their religion, their ethnicity. For those who are afraid that they will have to make the choice between having a home and getting healthy. For those who will start dying in a 1rst world country of diseases we have cures for or things we are working on. It is here THAT I SCREAM TO GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!

I am not ready for Rosh Hashana. I am not ready to stand before the King of Kings. I am not ready to stand there and be reminded that it is the day of judgment. I am not ready to think about what should happen next. I am not ready to read the Unetana Tokef- the prayer that reminds us that this is the day that is decided how the world will look in the upcoming year.

So this ends in a prayer- may this year be a year of peace and tranquility. May You guide the leaders of this world to do good instead of create harm. May all those who have felt loss, find comfort. May those who feel lost, find their way. May those who are ill, find a full healing. May our world return to a time of beauty and hope. May this year be a happy and sweet new year!

Posted in Life

Have You Allowed Yourself to Grieve?

Yesterday I have my first individual supervision for CPE. It did not go the way that I thought it would – this year might be a bit more difficult than I thought it would be (or maybe I knew, but didn’t want to know).

Well, there I was talking about feeling ok in the job so far (it’s only been two weeks). And spoke about the feeling of getting settled in a time of unsettledness. And how I felt exhausted, which he commented that I didn’t look it. I then said well, I am good at working hard and hiding how I tired I am, and spoke about the nursing home. It was then the waterworks started. He commented on me looking glassy eyed and asked why, and then asked me what are the things that would bring me joy- and I said that working in the home actually brought me a lot of joy. But then I was there crying. Talking about how hard last year was. How this year for Rosh Hashana I’m going to work in a nursing home because I don’t yet have a community or a place that even slightly feels at home. Talking about how I just feel like I am floating around like a balloon after leaving everything.

And then he asks, well how did you say Kaddish for this loss? Did you ever take time to grieve?

And of course I didn’t. My answer to him was no because it was my choice to do the things I did, so why should I mourn. How I don’t really think I even have the right to mourn, because I could have just make other choices that would have not made me move or stay longer.

When hearing that out loud, I realize how silly that sounds. I would never tell someone who went through aggressive treatment for something that they should not feel sad or upset they don’t feel well because it was their choice. But to me there is some form of logic to it.

When I told him I feel like I am floating, he told me that he thinks of floating as a way of existing when it is too difficult to feel. I think that there is truth to that. I am going along, getting from A to B, but not really sure what else is going on. Everything else seems too big and too overwhelming. It is much easier for me to deal with other people’s thoughts, feelings and pain. I still find it hard to allow myself to get to the place of actually feeling. The truth is, it scares me. It scares me that I can feel that much pain, and that really there isn’t much that can be done about it. It scares me to open myself up and allow others to know that I am in such pain, but because I don’t know if they will be there for me (which is something I felt greatly lacking last year in process group in school- they would push me to open up, and then nothing was done with my openness).

Each unit of CPE we have to have learning goals. He thinks that an area for me to explore is grief. My own personal grief, grief in theology, and grief in the hospital- what are areas of grief for my patients. At the time of the meeting I said maybe it’s not grief, but rather displacement. But after thinking about it more, displacement just feels easier to speak about. When I think about the things that scare me the most, it is actually about being with families while/after someone dies, really in that time of grief and mourning. I don’t know if I am able to be the one to be there (although I know that I will have to).

I think that I am also a bit resistant to talk about grief, because grief feels like there was a permanent loss, and I still have hope to go back to where I was. I know that it will not be the same, both because I have changed and because everyone changed to. But saying to mourn that feels more permanent. But maybe that is one way to look at it – that was a specific time in life, and now is the next. It was not a time of positive transition and change, but rather one of devastation and brokenness- and the only way to come back around is become whole again…

Am I ready to just jump in and push myself into this process? Do I trust that those I am with will understand and support me? Maybe it is the thing that I was missing last year (or I thought my sadness was about one thing last year, but maybe it was really about something else)?


Posted in Life

Goodbye the Year of Transitions and Moving (also known as 31) – Hello the Year of the Heart (also known as 32)

I usually do a birthday update, but I haven’t yet, and my English birthday was about a week ago (my Hebrew birthday was over Shabbat).

I kinda feel strange at this birthday. I thought about posting something on Facebook, but in the end didn’t. In some ways it felt too personal and in others it felt too mundane, there are bigger things going on in the world, why care about this (or better yet, why am I caring about this- yes I know I am allowed to).

32 just seems old. My parents had 2 kids by the time they were 32, and I just moved into a shared apartment in the city. I have somewhat accomplished things in the world, but not all that much. I guess I was hoping that I would be more settled at this point in time in my life, and it was this year (and especially this summer) that I felt completely topsy-turvy and lost.

I chose to go to my brother in Baltimore instead of stay in NYC. The truth is I didn’t really know what I would do on my birthday here, so instead of potentially sitting alone in my apartment, I went to be with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew.

It was also this week that I moved and started my new job, so I was a bit overwhelmed to think about becoming a year older. I was just overwhelmed with everything.

It was also the day that I got a call from my dream job to tell me that most likely I won’t get it now because I was not willing to commit to 5 years (I said 3). But I don’t see myself signing a contract to move anywhere for 5 years, when I also hope to get married, and if that happens I would have to work out with my husband where we can and should live – it won’t only be up to me.

It was also a week that hurricanes and fires started taking over parts of the world (in addition there was all the stuff with Korea and immigration). It makes me worried about what this world is coming to. My heart goes out to all those who have lost – who have lost their loved ones, their physical memories, their homes, their sense of stability. It is devastating to see pictures of cities demolished, wondering how and when will they ever be rebuilt.

So yes, my birthday was a bit out of focus. Again, year three of not really being near the people I would want to celebrate with. But I do think that 31 was a big year. A lot happened with a lot of transitions. A lot of things that are actually kinda mundane. I am very grateful that I had the opportunities to explore the world this past year. It was also a year of great sadness, loneliness and feeling unsure (and extremely unsettled). I did not have any romantic relationships. I don’t feel like I made many close friends.  It was also the year that I fulfilled my goal of becoming a rabbi. The five years of working and fighting finally came to an end- and now it is up to me to see what happens next.

Let’s see if I can do a list of 31 for 31…

  1. Moved to Australia
  2. Held a job as a scholar in residence (assistant rabbi) of a shul- and people respected me in that way).
  3. Taught at an embassy
  4. Saw kangaroos
  5. Met MP’s
  6. Swam in the Great Barrier Reef
  7. Saw the Sydney Opera House
  8. Became an aunt
  9. Had someone buy me a drink
  10. Moved to NYC
  11. Spoke in a shul in NYC
  12. Danced with Bill Nye
  13. Randomly went to Carnegie Hall for a show
  14. Wrote a Teshuva
  15. Tried to repair my heart from being broken after having to leave what I thought of as home…spent a lot of time crying.
  16. Allowed myself to be part of conversations I never would have in the past
  17. Unintentionally became a singles advocate (at least within my Yeshiva)
  18. Flew monthly to Chicago
  19. RECEIVED SMICHA!!!!!!!!
  20. Took the train NY to Toronto
  21. Taught in Toronto
  22. Taught in Atlanta
  23. Felt like a real business person flying into and out of a city on the same day
  24. Had a week where I went dancing outdoors almost every day
  25. Lived on my own for an entire year
  26. Went to Colombia
  27. Taught in multiple cities in Colombia and even had a translator
  28. Went to a Colombian wedding and left “early” at 11:30pm
  29. Moved to another place in NYC (props for finding one)
  30. Took the chance and applied to a dream job even though it terrified me
  31. Started a new job as a chaplain in a hospital

My brother pointed out that 32 is לב (Lev), which means heart. May this year be full of heart and love. May I find the ways not only to share my love but to also receive love. I pray that for this upcoming year that I am able to feel whole again, that I am able to feel some form of being settled. I hope that I am able to figure out where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing there. I hope (once again) that I am able to find partnership, so that I am no longer doing this on my own. I hope to find someone who is able to bring me partnership not only emotionally and intellectually, but also physically. Someone I can build a life and a home with. I pray that I make the right choices. I pray that my work this year does not burn me out. I pray that I am able to find a good balance between my work with others and finding time to enrich myself. I pray that my years of sitting in the Beit Midrash do not go to “waste” as I am focusing on people this year. I pray that this is a year of good- of good health, good living, good being.

So here is to 32!


Posted in Life

Lots of New

This week was crazy.

Firstly there is the craziness of all that is happening in the world. Major cities flooding. Rockets being shot over countries. Insane politics still being the way they are.

And then I find the craziness in my own personal life.

I was supposed to start work at the hospital on Monday, but I was not yet cleared medically, so I had to go on Monday to get the second part of the TB test, but I was not going to start work till Wednesday. Monday I took the day to get my haircut, go to the MET and see a friend. (It was my first time in the MET, such an amazing museum).

Tuesday I was in NJ, and realized I had no clue where my shoes were, so I had to run out to buy emergency shoes (I needed a new pair of flats anyways, this just expedited the process as I HATE shoe shopping) as I was to start work on Wednesday. So Tuesday was a day of laundry, packing, packing up my dad’s car, finding shoes (I did), going back to NY to stay at a friend so I would not have a 2 hour commute on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was my first day of work. I planned on waking up at 6:30, but I was up at 5:30. Well, first I got to the hospital early and made sure I don’t have TB (I don’t). And then I got to the chaplaincy department, and found out I was an hour early- no one shows up till 9. I was given a very short tour (mostly just to get to where I have to check in). I met the other chaplains and other residents- all very nice, but I feel very different. It was a day of orientation- hearing different chaplains speak, learning some of the process as to what happens, what are some of our responsibilities. And then there was a party. Some of the things in the hospital are the same as what I am used to (it is a branch that is part of the hospital I worked for last summer), but there are some things that are new (like some of the charting changed), and some is just the culture of the hospital (like I have a desk and a computer, and we are in an area that actually looks like an office, and people walk fast…)

[The other residents at my hospital are both in their 50’s, both women, one is a nondenominational Christian minister, and the other a nun. They are both very emotional, and are changing their carriers, and really want to go into chaplaincy. I am still torn, and feel floating].

If starting a brand new job wasn’t enough, Wednesday I also moved apartments. My parents came in and dropped off all of my stuff. I unpacked most of my stuff, went out and bought things I needed ASAP, and then went out to dinner with someone from Australia (a person I didn’t meet, but was in contact with). And to make things a bit crazier in my brain, I found out I am on the short list for the job I applied to…

Well, needless to say Thursday I woke up EXHAUSTED. I felt like I was going to fall over. I was so thankful when I got to work and found out that we would be able to leave at 3. It was more orientation, charting and the such. And then we took a trip to another hospital that we cover when we are on call. There we went on a tour and learned a bit about the population there. We finished early, and I made it home by 3:30. I immediately passed out and didn’t wake up till 5. I still felt very out of it. My body was sore from standing and walking and lifting heavy things. One of my roommates had friends over, one of which I knew, so I met some new people, which was good. I also went food shopping which was necessary. And then passed out again.

Today we finally went onto the floors. It is such a different hospital than the one I worked in last summer. It is bigger, but feels like there are less people. I am covering a floor with three units, that have about 100 beds. They range from psych patients to those who the hospital doesn’t know what to do with to the palliative care beds. (I’ll also be on the outpatient oncology ward). The staff seem to know the pastoral care staff less than at the other hospital. It will be an interesting challenge to get to know all of the staff and for them to get to know me and what I can (and what my colleagues can) do.

I got home for Shabbat and my body is just exhausted. My legs and feet are tired. My brain is tired. I just want to curl up and not have to make decisions (thank God for good friends so I don’t have to deal with Shabbat planning). I also decided last minute to go to my brother on Saturday night, so I will be in Baltimore for two days. It is also where I will be spending my birthday, as I have no idea what else I want to be doing (I’m too tired, anxious, tense, to plan that, at least right now).

So here is the last Shabbat of 31.

I hope that this Shabbat brings peace and calm to all those who need it.

Shabbat Shalom! 🙂